When I bought my used Jeep Wrangler TJ with a soft top the top itself was caked in pollen and dirt. I sprayed everything down, but the dirt was still visible. After research and some trial and error, I found a pretty good way to clean these types of Jeep soft tops to remove embedded substances like bird poop, dirt or pollen.
In this post, I’ll outline a simple guide for cleaning your Jeep soft top including products you may already have at home.
What you’ll need
- Soft-bristled carpet or unused wheel brush
- Set of interior detailing brushes (large and small)
- Firm bristled detailing brush or toothbrush
- Your favorite car soap
- Meguiar’s M39 or Bestop soft top cleaning kit
- Foaming carpet cleaner
- Microfiber towels
Step 1: Clean surface dirt with soft-bristled brush and soap
Most Jeep soft tops are really textured are are also pretty porous – which means a lot of dirt, wax, and debris can make them look dirty even if you use a mitt or sponge to move soap over this area.
If you just washed your soft top and noticed that it still looks brown or has dirty trapped (or in my case yellow pollen) you’ll probably need to do some scrubbing with a soft-bristled brush. I like to use a wheel brush like the one pictured below. It’s firm enough to dislodge most of the dirt, but not firm enough to cause any damage.
Start with soap and a thick scrub brush
To get started. I prefer to use a basic car soap (without wax) in combination with a brush, but you can also use Dawn. While I don’t recommend Dawn for washing (since it removes wax) it actually does a pretty good job of cleaning oil, grease, and other substances from fabrics and vinyl surfaces.
For this first pass, just try to scrub as much dirt off as you can. For the second pass you can follow up with a dedicated soft top cleaner I will mention later.
Quick tip: use a step ladder for cleaning your Jeep’s top
I stood on the doors of my Wrangler to clean everything, but would highly recommend using a non-slip stainless steel platform for cleaning your soft top.
I recently wrote a post recommending a few of these collapsible platforms that you can read all about here. They definitely come in handy especially if you have a lift kit.
Step 2: Soft bristled detailing brushes + Bestop or another cleaner
After cleaning with the wider scrub brush, one device that really did help in the corners, trim, and other hard-to-reach areas are soft bristled nylon detailing brushes. I really like this cheap COCODE set on Amazon that comes with a carrying case (since I tend to lose them a lot).
Since some substances like bird dropping are difficult to remove with a soft brush, I recommend a toothbrush or a short, firm-bristled nylon brush to help scrub hard to remove stains or substances that may require more agitation.
I like to let the foaming action of the cleaner do all the work – brushes basically just help to work the product in the pores. In extreme cases, you can use a brush with stiffer bristles as long as you are careful.
Using Bestop to clean and protect
Bestop makes a great kit that is engineered to clean and protect soft tops, and perfect to apply with brushes. I would recommend the complete Bestop kit which includes a top cleaner, protectant, and window cleaner.
You can find this kit here on Amazon and is a great solution if you need an all-on one restoration option. The also make a zipper cleaner and lubricant (which I actually really need).
Other cleaning options
Since most jeep tops (whether it be a CJ, YJ, TJ, or later models) are composed of some combination of vinyl/rubber/and plastic, I would recommend a product safe for all three surfaces like Meguiar’s M39 if you’re just looking for a basic way to clean it.
This product creates a foaming lather when used with a brush, and can really work to chemically lift some of the dirt or mud that regular car wash soap can’t.
Step 3: Top removed? Use a foaming carpet cleaner for roll par padding
With the top removed (or pulled back at least) a spray-on multi-purpose foaming cleaner as pictured above is ideal for to removing dirt from the roll par padding or foam. I basically just sprayed this product on this fabric, and used a wider detailing brush to really work it in.
The built-in scrub tool on a carpet or upholstery cleaner is a little too stiff for this application, which is why I prefer using my detailing brushes for this type of application.
Step 4: Clean the trim and speakers around your top
While you’ve got the top off, it’s a good idea to like to use a vinyl/plastic/rubber cleaner like Meguiar’s M39 in combination with a thinner brush to clean dirty trim or speakers.
In my TJ, the plastic speaker casing (that the top sits on) was in pretty rough condition, with a lot of dirt embedded in in the grain. I found my Meguiar’s M39 mirror glaze product cleaned them beautifully with a brush.
If you are just looking to remove mud stains from your top, these methods should do the trick. While cleaning is obviously important, you really need to protect your Jeep to help prevent dirt from easily getting lodged in the pores of your soft top.
Protecting your top from mud stains
A couple of products you can pick up (made for protection) are either the Bestop protectant, a spray-on product called 303 Protectant, and even Scotch Guard. These will need to be reapplied over time, but can save your hands from doing a lot of tedious scrubbing the next time you wash.
What do you use to clean your soft top and keep it clean? Leave me a comment and let me know what works for you.